January 22, 2011 Paris
The tension arose from the face-off between the classicism of the Old World and the urgency of the New. "Tailoring used in a sportswear way" was Ossendrijver's description. "Where uptown and downtown meet," said Lanvin creative supremo Alber Elbaz, adding with a gale of laughter, "But not in midtown. We hate midtown." No, not much midtown in these looks, which appeared literally dissected by speed. They stayed closed with magnets instead of buttons. Outerwear that may have started life as an officer's coat—double-breasted, epauletted—was re-seamed to within a millimeter of the models' whippet-thin forms. Though one jacket had sporty puffa quilting attached to its front, the monochrome torso was more linear than ever, made even more so by the wide-cut trousers that went with it (there were still leggings—narrow, zipped-ankle numbers—too).
That particular silhouette—tightly tailored jacket, baggy pants—was the quintessence of Lanvin's mix of Old and New. It could have been Berlin in the thirties; Bowie in the seventies; Depp, Downey, or any other dandy in the Naughties underworld. What it also represented for Elbaz was "a return to elegance—the word is always being used to describe old people. When you talk about the young, it's always 'cool' or 'sexy', but we wanted to introduce elegance to the young."
Helping make the introduction was an emphasis on composure and restraint. What stood out was how covered up the models were in their layers. Some wore fedoras mysteriously pulled low over one eye (another of this week's irresistible links to a Bowie incarnation—the alien Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth). But otherwise, everything was directed to highlighting the faces of the models. The final outfits featured velvet jackets over white shirts buttoned to the neck. Underneath, a mock turtleneck pushed the young men's faces up into the light. Elbaz and Ossendrijver have always emphasized the individuality of the Lanvin man. Here was a striking acknowledgement of that commitment.
One more thing: Lanvin's dark ode to the young and the restless came with a twist. Was that a dangling foxtail disturbing the elegance of a camel coat? "Yes, because everyone has a foxy side," said Ossendrijver, with a glittery-eyed twinkle.